Dave Dennis participated in the first Freedom Bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961 as they were attempting to desegregate the interstate bus system, and in voter registration efforts during the 1964 Freedom Summer. He had been raised in Louisiana by sharecropper grandparents.
Dave Dennis worked closely with Bob Moses and Medgar Evers in Mississippi, and was active in many Civil Rights organizations during the 1960’s. He served as co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Mississippi. Dennis conducted voter registration workshops throughout the south as the Mississippi director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), working with SNCC members and other civil rights activists in Mississippi under the COFO umbrella. A bout with bronchitis prevented Dennis from riding in the car with three Civil Rights workers he was training, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, the night they were killed by Ku Klux Klan members on a back road in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Dennis spoke at the funeral of James Chaney.
Before his organizing work in Mississippi, Dennis established the first African American cooperative in the south, the Ruleville Mississippi Quilting Cooperative, comprised of eighteen women from that town.
In 1972, Dennis organized a successful challenge to the Louisiana Democratic Party structure. This represented the first time since Reconstruction that there was a majority of African American delegates from the Louisiana Democratic Party to the Democratic National Convention and an African American chairman of the delegation.
After leaving the practice of law in Louisiana in 1992, Dennis joined Moses to further develop an education program known as the Algebra Project. Today, he works as the director and CEO of the Southern Initiative of the Algebra Project, a nonprofit that aims to improve minority children’s mathematics education.
Dennis received his Bachelors of Arts and Science from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. He has been cited in several books and publications related to Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movement.